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Mamby On The Beach Canceled Due To High Lake Levels And Endangered Birds At Montrose Beach

The cancellation comes after weeks of meetings between event organizers, the Chicago Park District and environmental groups, who wanted the event moved.

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UPTOWN — Mamby on the Beach, an electronic and dance music festival set to take place on Montrose Beach next month, has been canceled.

The cancellation comes after weeks of meetings between event organizers, the Chicago Park District and environmental groups, who wanted the event moved and threatened legal action if it was held on the North Side beach.

Organizers of the August 23-24 festival announced that it was moving from its usual Bronzeville location to Montrose Beach earlier this spring. Everything was fine, until an adorable pair of federally protected Great Lakes Piping Plovers decided to nest and lay their eggs on Montrose Beach. The eggs hatched this week, a triumph for the endangered species.

Credit: Tamima Itani/Illinois Ornithological Society
Two of the four Piping Plover eggs have hatched and birders are excited at the possibility of the chick’s survival.

Until last week, Jam Productions co-founder Jerry Mickelson remained steadfast that the show would go on, but on Friday the festival put out a statement on social media saying the show was off:

“We are saddened to announce that Mamby on the Beach has been cancelled for 2019 due to circumstanced beyond our control,” the statement reads. “These unforeseen issues include significantly higher than average waters of Lake Michigan eliminating the beach portion of our intended site. Additionally, our original footprint was affected by the presence of Great Lakes Piping Plover shorebirds, a federally protected species.”

The statement went on to explain that moving the festival with just a month’s notice would be too difficult.

“Despite working tirelessly with the Chicago Park District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to find a new location, moving the festival at this late a date, while still providing a superior beach event experience, would be impossible and a disservice to fans and artists alike.”

Ticket holders will be refunded in the next 5 to 10 business days, the statement said. For more information on refunds, click here.

Early this month, the Illinois Environmental Council’s Policy Director Cary Shepard said that the festival’s close proximity to the plovers could possibly trigger a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act.

Shepard and a slew of other environmental and animal rights groups started a petition and encouraged their supporters to lean on the park district to cancel the event.

Still, Mickelson said the show would go on and said it might be moved further inland to accommodate the birds and the high water levels.

That wasn’t good enough, according to Jill Niland of the Chicago Ornithological Society.

“This for-profit concert threatens not only the federally endangered birds but also decades of habitat restoration that has turned the park into one of the nation’s top migratory stopover sites,” she said.

Niland said that although Mickelson has promised to protect the Piping Plovers, the Chicago Ornithological Society still worries about the impacts of a concert that would bring 15 to 20,000 people to the beach per day.

“Can the festival organizer truly guarantee their festival patrons won’t irreparably damage sensitive habitats?” she asked.

The hatching of the Plover chicks this week seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Mamby.

Until now, a Great Lakes Piping Plover chick hasn’t hatched in Chicago since 1955.

As excited as birders were to see the eggs hatch, the next month is the most precarious time for these young chicks, who won’t likely fly from the nest for at least 25 days — which would be prime set-up time for Mamby.

Even with the concert canceled, conservationists urged bird lovers to give the birds, named “Monty” and “Rose,” their space.

The chick’s viability and chance of survival is only 1.5 chicks per clutch of four eggs, so birders are doing everything they can to help keep them safe.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
An area of Montrose Beach is cordoned off in order to keep the rare birds nesting area safe from danger.

Tammia Itani, treasurer of the Illinois Ornithological Society, said she hoped the other two eggs will hatch, and Monty and Rose will have four fledglings.

“We are hoping that at least two chicks will survive,” she said. “We like to round up.”

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